Why this TV weatherman disappeared from the air and is now making a comeback

WSVN meteorologist Phil Ferro and anchor Belkys Nerey at the Suncoast Emmy awards Sunday.
WSVN meteorologist Phil Ferro and anchor Belkys Nerey at the Suncoast Emmy awards Sunday. Courtesy of Phil Ferro

A familiar voice weather will be returning to the airwaves after a three-month absence.

Phil Ferro, WSVN-Channel 7’s chief meteorologist, was diagnosed with throat cancer in January. He has been with Channel 7 since 2005 and has been reporting on the weather since 1995.

Ferro announced his return in a Facebook post this week and thanked everyone who had sent him well wishes.

“I’m returning to work!” he said on Facebook. “I want to thank all of you who sent me e-mails and letters, phone messages, texted me, posted well wishes on my social media sites, during my absence. They all lifted me when I needed a pick me up.”

In a phone Interview on Tuesday, Ferro said he first saw side effects of the cancer in November. He noticed he was having trouble swallowing food and felt pain in his throat at the end of December.

After his diagnosis, he stayed on the air until mid-Febuary. Then he took a break because radiation was taking a toll.

Ferro said he also went through dozens of tests.

But he was determined to get back as soon as he could.

“I love what I do,” he said. “It was difficult not to have a routine. I was home a lot. Nausea was my worst enemy. I was really longing to just getting back on the saddle again.”

His recovery hasn’t been easy.

A side effect of radiation has been a loss of saliva, making it difficult to talk. He’s been has been fighting through it with voice exercises.

“I take a swig of water and see how long I can talk before I lose the moisture inside the mouth,” he said.

Right now, he can talk for about 2 1/2 minutes, which he says is just fine for a TV weather segment.

Vivian Gonzalez, the station’s early morning meteorologist, said on Twitter that Ferro is family to her and that South Florida is lucky to have him.

“God heard our prayers,” she said.

He will not immediately return to the air. For the rest of May, he will be catching up with changes at the station.

He’s targeting June to get back on air. That’s just in time for hurricane season.

The same virus that's the leading cause of cervical cancer is also the leading cause of throat cancer. HPV is also the most common sexually transmitted infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.